Above: WiPay CEO Aldwyn Wayne during the online launch.
WiPay always intended to launch its Barbados operations, led by Country Manager Gabriel Taylor, in May 2020. The company just never expected to be launching using Zoom in an environment both crippled and enabled by restrictions and isolation demanded by Covid-19.
According to WiPay’s CEO, Aldwyn Wayne, “With Covid, our business has taken off. Large businesses have taken up our solutions, and we have distributed solutions to NGO’s to help them with their work.”
That Digital Grant system has been put to use by the Point Fortin Borough Corporation and the Living Water Community.
WiPay COO Sasha Thompson
WiPay is committed, according to COO Sasha Thompson, to digital inclusion in a Caribbean region plagued by low credit card penetration.
In Barbados, it’s estimated that just 15-20 per cent of citizens use credit cards.
Referencing a report she worked on that analysed the Barbados economy, Laura Giles Alvarez noted that in Barbados, “Firms face greater constraints to access financing than individuals.”
Businesses face burdensome bureaucratic requirements and high borrowing costs.
Individuals have much readier access to credit facilities than businesses do. The report notes out that, “The value of collateral relative to the amount of the loan requested is about 180 percent.”
That’s the highest in the region, a requirement that a business have assets worth almost twice the value of the loan it is trying to access.
Laura Giles Alvarez
Kieran Kelly who has done business in Barbados for 20 years and currently leads Tradewinds Insurance Brokers and the upscale Chesterton’s Real Estate, noted that roughly half of the GDP of Barbados is tourism-related.
“The pandemic,” Kelly said, “has highlighted the need for cost-effective financial business solutions. We need to get people online for payments.”
“Business ground to a halt for a week. Premiums are down 15 percent.”
“It’s crucial that we move to a contactless eCommerce financial solution. The eCommerce ball has begun rolling with a push from Covid-19.”
That’s a challenge for Barbados, because the difficulty of getting access to credit cards has kept the country, like Trinidad and Tobago, cash-centric.
WiPay, Kelly declared – with visible enthusiasm – that implementing WiPay’s payment solutions at his companies was easy and efficient.
“We will be doing local dollar processing from the first of June, reducing forex leakage.” – Aldwyn Wayne
“I’d spoken with at least one bank who required a deposit of $60,000 (Bds) for their solution – that’s not feasible for my businesses in the current situation.”
The rollout of WiPay’s business solutions is happening slowly.
“We have a few [Barbados] customers doing US dollar processing,” Wayne said.
“We will be doing local dollar processing from the first of June, reducing forex leakage.”
That process takes foreign banking systems and payment processors out of the equation by making it possible to process Barbados-based electronic payments entirely within the island’s financial systems without conversions to US dollars and back.
The company will be taking its time delivering its WiPay point-of-sale terminals to customers because of isolation restrictions and hopes to have full distribution of the devices by the fourth quarter of 2020.
WiPay is in continuing discussions with the Central Bank of Barbados about its operations, but on launch, the Barbados unit is providing services exclusively for customers on the island.
The company has a growing network of payment systems in the Caribbean, and its has an ambitious plan is to create a financial ecosystem that moves money within the region seamlessly, but it will have to wait on approvals from conservative regional financial regulators to make that happen.
WiPay’s provides an electronic payment plug-in for websites running WordPress, Magento and Shopify. The company also makes the API’s for its payment front-end available to web developers.
The company delivers payments and invoicing using a token system that makes use of either identifier codes or QR barcodes to deliver value via systems as downmarket as SMS messages.
The company also enables payments for small merchants via its point of sale Smart Terminals, which adhere to modern requirements for financial transactions, accepting payment via the token system, credit and debit cards.
It has developed this system successfully in the Trinidad and Tobago Judiciary’s Court Pay system and for Caribbean Airlines in Guyana, using the existing Grace Kennedy top-up network to enable ticket purchases from the distant interior of the South-American nation.
The company will soon introduce its Rebel card in partnership with Mastercard, a virtual and physical card value system that’s tied to their online platform. It expects to make this card available to anyone, lowering the threshold for cashless transactions in the Caribbean region.